THE KEY OF THE CHEST by Neil M. Gunn

THE KEY OF THE CHEST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The inhabitants of a Scottish coastal village face the possibility that one of their number may have murdered a shipwrecked sailor. This work by a leader of the Scottish literary renaissance was first published in 1945 in the UK. A terrible storm has swept in from the sea and over the village of Cruime, and the winds have smashed a Swedish vessel against the rocks and sunk her. Charlies Maclan tries to rescue one of the crew, but when Charlie's brother Dougald comes home the next day, the sailor is dead. The village doctor quickly notes that the sailor did not drown: he was strangled. Although the official finding is that death was accidental, Charlie remains an object of unofficial suspicion. And then Charlie's intractable shepherd brother raises further suspicions when he suddenly comes up with the money to buy himself a new flock. Did he somehow benefit from the death of the Swedish sailor, who had been brought ashore with the ship's locked record chest? Much of the speculation is followed in the conversation and thoughts of the village's few professional and gentle inhabitants, who are equally interested in Charlie's romance with the headstrong daughter of the village minister. When they are not wondering about Charlie and Flora, the doctor and the laird find much to discuss in the fate of the village, their place in it, and the character and lot of the inhabitants. Assigned by the publisher to an adventure genre, this complex and ambitious novel spills over into historic, romantic, and Huxley/Lawrence territories. Worth wading through the occasional philosophical bog to get to the poetry and the sharp, unsentimental renderings of village life.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1988
Publisher: Walker